Managing Your Medical Needs During the Holidays

This post was written for patients diagnosed illness who may be struggling physically, emotionally or spiritually. I'm hoping it may be instructive beyond just this particular group especially in the area of our own self-care. It's time for the holidays. If these words make you clench your tummy, hold your breath, or even dissociate into negative predictions of what you will be asked or told at family gatherings, then this short piece is for you.

Perhaps you've been recently diagnosed with an illness like cancer, or you may have an illness that has taken a turn for the worse, or perhaps you're undergoing new or difficult treatments. It may feel like there is enough to cope with without having to deal with family and friend occasions that might feel challenging or even exposing. First, they see you. You do not look "like yourself". No one says it, but oh don't they! You may not feel like yourself. What's really important to you, and your ability to be patient with Aunt Hermine, are not the same. Things may feel a little upside down, which can be isolating and hard for others to understand.

Here's what I suggest. Rather than doing the holidays as you always have, think through what makes sense for your body, your energy level, for how you feel today. Holistic medicine and an integrative approach require that we stay in touch with ourselves both physically and emotionally.

If you choose to attend events with family and friends, you might consider letting your host know you may need a rest an hour or sooner after arriving. Ask for a place where you can lie down if necessary.

Sit down once you have arrived. Let people come to you.

Decide when you need a break. Listen to your body, respect your needs and stay present.

Have an escape plan: arrange in advance for a loved one to take you home if needed.

Another option is to give yourself permission to not go. That means letting go of feelings of guilt, even though you might be really sorry to miss the occasion.

If you stay home, give yourself permission to do whatever you want, to the celebrate in whatever say you desire. Quiet celebrations included!

This is an extraordinary time, and one that may be full of challenges. Why not take this moment, and each holiday event you choose to attend, to be yourself, as you are now. Its a perfect time to let go of old patterns, roles and out-of-date identities....and discover and express your needs.


Happy Holidays!


Dr. G